“Just don’t think about it.”
If you kept track of how many times a depressed person or a caregiver of a depressed person heard this, you would be dealing in the millions. People who have not had to deal with depression in their lives often think that if depression is pushed out of the mind, a cure occurs. Ah, if life could be so easy!
Depression is not something you can turn on and off easily. You can’t just think happy thoughts and have it disappear. Depression imbues your being and even when you are feeling somewhat good, it is still in the background. When someone says “Just don’t think about it,” it only reinforces the fact that depression is there, waiting, waiting, waiting.
Remember the old story about someone who comes up to a friend and says, “I will give you five hundred dollars if you don’t think about purple elephants for ten minutes.” Of course, it is impossible and the friend loses the five hundred dollars.
So it is for the depressed person and for the caregiver. Asking them to not think about this monster that has invaded their lives, is asking them not to be on guard for what that monster can do. They have to make sure medicine is taken, doctor appointments kept, exercises done, crises averted, tears wiped. They laugh and enjoy each other too when times are good, but even then, in the distant background is the fact that depression could once again rear its ugly head.
So the next time you find those words on the tip of your tongue, pause, and remember that it is indeed easier to say that than to do it.